Keep Ridgeland Beautiful, Ridgeland, MS

Thanks to a grant from #Lowe’s and partnership with #KeepAmericanBeautiful #KAB, Keep Ridgeland Beautiful partnered with City of Ridgeland Parks and Rec and Dept. of Public Works and student volunteers to revitalize Friendship Park. The transformative event, July 22-23, 2015, included new picnic pads, grills, new bathroom building roof, painted and repaired picnic shelter, landscaping care, light repair and painting, and playground mulch.

Keep Alachua County Beautiful, Gainesville, FL

The highlight of our cleanup this year was the two-day cleanup of the homeless camp, known as “Tent City.” Keep Alachua County Beautiful targeted the cleanup of a former homeless camp this spring. This project, a part of the Great American Cleanup, was completed on two consecutive Saturdays, March 21 and 28, and involved approximately 500 University of Florida fraternity members in the removal of more than 60 tons of trash.

The nearly five-acre site, referred to as “Tent City,” was occupied by as many as 172 people at a time for a period of 20 years. Situated along a popular rail-trail, two private landowners tolerated the occupation of these wooded parcels in anticipation of the opening of an expanded center serving the homeless, Grace Marketplace in 2014.

With no sanitation services, this once beautiful property along the Sweetwater Branch Creek festered with ankle-deep trash, tattered tents, and heaps of discarded clothing. This section of rail-trail, at the confluence of the Gainesville-Hawthorn Trail and the Downtown Connector bicycle and walking trails, features live oaks, water oaks, holly trees, pines and too numerous shrubs to list. Wildlife including hawks, tortoises and foxes thrive here despite the years of despoliation. Keep Alachua County Beautiful sought to heal this open wound that had resulted from years of neglect and primitive camping. Since the property borders a prime recreational asset and eco-tourism attraction in our county — the trail follows the north rim of Paynes Prairie State Park — Keep Alachua County Beautiful felt it was imperative that this property not remain as tourists’ impression of Alachua County.

Using 297 fraternity volunteers on the first Saturday and nearly 200 fraternity members on the second Saturday, plus another 100 volunteers from the community, Keep Alachua County Beautiful was able to remove more than 60 tons of trash. Alachua County provided deferment of the tipping fees for the garbage and the City of Gainesville Solid Waste Division provided a supervisor and arranged for the City and County curbside collection hauler to provide roll-off containers and carts. Lowe’s allowed for the purchase of the gloves and pitchforks at a discounted price and facilitated the receipt of a pallet of water from Niagara for the volunteers. Domino’s Pizza provided lunch for the volunteers.

Keep Carroll Beautiful, Carrollton, GA

In observance of Earth Day, eight garden beds were set up at Carrollton Elementary School. Volunteers from Georgia Power, the Maple Leaf Garden Club, and Keep Carroll Beautiful helped pre-K students plant a seed and taught the students about growing plants. Thanks to Lowe’s for donating the soil and making this event possible.

Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful Albany, GA

Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful (KADB) partnered with the art departments of Darton State College and Albany State University to paint a garden scene mural at the Adult Day Care Center of AARC. In December , KADB’s @Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant allowed KADB to install ceiling fans, pavers, flower beds and three raised garden boxes at AARC. The art students were elated to see the smiles on the AARC clients faces as they viewed the mural.

Keep The Rez Beautiful, Ridgeland, MS

Keep The Rez Beautiful volunteers braved several cold days in December putting the finishing touches on a new Pollinator/Sensory Garden, a welcomed addition to the newly established Turtle Point Nature Area. Thanks to Lowe’s and KAB, the new addition will benefit pollinators that are needed to increase fruit and vegetable production. Native plants including Butterfly Milkweed, Great Coneflowers and other native plants including fruit and nut trees will serve as food for the Monarch Butterfly, which is in decline nationally, as well as other wildlife in the area.

The Reservoir serves as a flyway for many birds and insects. This addition will provide a resting place and food for the travelers. The sensory aspect of the garden is designed to stimulate the senses with the courtesy of plants that engage one’s senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. Blueberry bushes and Willow trees are just one example. Native Americans used the bark of willow trees to produce a type of aspirin.

Located on Pelahatchie Bay on the 33,000-acre Ross Barnett Reservoir, the five-acre grassed nature area was created from spoil dredged from the Reservoir caused from urban sprawl. A new walking trail and a kayak launch is creating new friends for KRB. People visiting the area are excited about the new garden area and a walking trail that provides a view of the Reservoir. Many are wanting to know how they can help! Build it and they will come. There are many KRB surprises on the way for this nature area located in a blighted area between two 50-year-old subdivisions.

Keep Genesee County Beautiful, Flint Michigan

I’m in DC building picnic tables with one of our favorite corporate partners at the KAB conference. It may be snowing to the north, but things are heating up here with some great conference sessions and resources along with amazing peers from across the country.

Keep Terre Haute Beautiful

Thanks to #Lowes this trail now provide additional access to the Holly Arboretum. It features an accessible surface for visitors. The Holly Arboretum in Deming Park is the largest Arboretum in a public park in the world.